Bears lose to Vikings in season finale
In a replay that has been seen far too often this season, the Chicago Bears hurt themselves with inopportune penalties and an inability to move the ball on offense in a 23-10 season-ending loss to the Vikings in Minneapolis.
Their seventh loss in nine games left the Bears with a 5-11 record and, in all likelihood, leaves head coach John Fox and his staff unemployed.
Asked when he would speak with general manager Ryan Pace, regarding his future, Fox said: "Look, I'm here, the league makes me be here to talk about this game, and that's what we'll keep it to. Anything after that, we'll keep you posted. Any other questions?"
Asked if he had any clarity on his situation, Fox said: "Again, I'd just repeat what I just said, if you need me to. Any other questions? All right, thank you."
And then he was gone, most likely for good.
Fox is 14-34 with the Bears and has finished with double-digit losses and in last place in the NFC North in each of his three seasons. The Bears were 0-6 vs. the NFC North this year and 3-15 in three years under Fox.
In the first half alone, the Bears were flagged seven times for 91 yards, and they finished with 10 infractions that cost them 116 yards. In the first half, the Bears managed just 53 yards of total offense, including minus-1 yard on 6 rushing attempts. They ended with 28 rushing yards on 13 attempts and only 201 total yards.
The Vikings finished 13-3, their second-most wins in franchise history, and they locked down the No. 2 seed in the playoffs and a first-round bye.
Case Keenum's 15-yard TD pass to Stefon Diggs with 14 seconds remaining in the third quarter gave the Vikings a commanding 23-7 lead.
The Bears had a chance to make it interesting late in the game but were repeatedly abysmal in the red zone. On eight plays from inside the Vikings' 7-yard line in the fourth quarter, the Bears managed a total of 1 yard and came away with no points.
"They're a good defense," said quarterback Mitch Trubisky, who completed 3 of 9 passes in the red zone for 8 yards. "They out-executed us down there. We have to find ways to score in the red zone."
Trubisky did a commendable job of avoiding rookie mistakes in his first 11 starts. But he was flagged for grounding in the end zone, resulting in a safety that gave the Vikings a 16-7 lead late in the second quarter. Under pressure, Trubisky attempted an ill-advised backhanded flip from his own end zone.
Trubisky completed 20 of 36 passes for 178 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions for a passer rating of 69.0.
The Bears' offense did not convert its first third-down opportunity until there was 12:15 left in the game after failing on the first 7 attempts. They finished 1-for-12.
But Fox had encouraging words for the team that he'll leave behind.
"My hat's off to every guy in that locker room, the way they battled, the way they fought," Fox said. "I think you saw more of that (Sunday). Kind of been a killer of our whole season is just not generating enough offensive points. I thought coaches did a great job of preparing, especially special teams.
"As I told those guys, I think there's a good culture in that locker room. There's good guys; obviously we need some pieces added and to every one of them, there'll be better days moving forward."
Nearly all the Bears' early offense came from nickel cornerback Bryce Callahan with 5:50 left in the first half. He atoned for two earlier pass-interference penalties by returning a punt 59 yards for a touchdown cutting the deficit to 14-7, thanks to some trickery by Bears special-teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers.
Callahan knelt down near the sideline, across the field from usual punt-returner Tarik Cohen, and was undetected by the Vikings. When Vikings punter Ryan Quigley kicked the ball away from Cohen, as Rodgers expected, Callahan was there to field it and sprinted down the sideline untouched.
The second long Vikings drive, this one 11 plays and 71 yards, staked the home team to a 14-0 with 9:30 left in the first half. Like the first Minnesota TD drive, this one was also aided by Bears penalties -- an illegal contact call on Marcus Cooper and Callahan's second pass interference call that cost the Bears 24 yards.
Setting the tone early, Bears went three-plays-and-punt before the Vikings responded with a seven-play, 70-yard TD drive to take a 7-0 lead just 5:53 in. A 15-yard roughing-the-quarterback penalty on Bears nose tackle Eddie Goldman helped the Vikings.
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